by Katie Hanford
Atlanta-based trio Omni are masters of synthesis. Their specific brand of ‘80s inspired post-punk has been crafted and revisited countless times: first by the originators themselves (Devo, Talking Heads), carried on by the likes of the Strokes (and too many contemporaries to name). Upon first listen, Omni’s latest release feels borrowed: the crunchy treble of the intertwining and slightly discordant guitar riffs, the tightly executed snare hits, and even the splash of funk in the up-stroked guitars and bouncing beats have all been used in a previous post-punk classic. Even the speak-sing technique that bassist Philip Frobos invokes on the lo-fi lead vocals can sound like a half-assed David Byrne impression. However, the parts do not match the whole; the recognizable tone of Omni’s sound ends at their unique ability to craft holistically interesting songs. The arrangement and execution of each track on Multi-task ensures the listener is never bored by their reinvention of the proverbial post-punk wheel.
Each track begins at full-speed, galloping away at a pace other bands would trip over but only aids Omni’s cohesiveness. With so many parts moving at the speed of light, it feels as though each track should be on the brink of crashing to a disastrous halt, which is never allowed to happen. The riffs are urgent, but not anxious; the beats drive but never sprint, allowing each instrument to be expertly placed into the mix. Rhythms slink along the bottom of the range while guitars soar to the top, maintaining a broad sonic landscape that keeps the tracks crisp and enticing. Whereas the mid-range of Frobos’ vocals serve as a grounding force for the hectic energy swirling around in each song, his lyrics provide the only instance of instability on the album.
The first few seconds of the opening track “Southbound Station” set the insecurity in place, with Frobos laying his anxiety out frankly: “You said to meet at the center of Lenox Square // I’m drenched in sweat, and you can bet // You can bet I’m already there.” The syncopation of his words simultaneously highlights his frantic thought-process and accents the rhythmic flow of the track to an almost flawless degree, showcasing Omni’s superb talent for creating space amidst the tight quarters required to make post-punk interesting. Frobos continues to recount stories of social flubs and anxious anticipation amidst the flurry of perfectly timed musical chaos. Although the lyrics fit the intensity of Omni’s sound, any insecurity remains in the content of Frobos’ words alone. The well-traversed ground of the post-punk tradition leaves no room for mistakes. Thankfully, on Multi-Task, Omni don’t really make any.